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[am-bish-uh n] /æmˈbɪʃ ən/
an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment:
Too much ambition caused him to be disliked by his colleagues.
the object, state, or result desired or sought after:
The crown was his ambition.
desire for work or activity; energy:
I awoke feeling tired and utterly lacking in ambition.
verb (used with object)
to seek after earnestly; aspire to.
Origin of ambition
1300-50; Middle English ambicio(u)n (< Middle French) < Latin ambitiōn- (stem of ambitiō), equivalent to amb- ambi- + -i- go + -t- past participle suffix + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
ambitionless, adjective
ambitionlessly, adverb
preambition, noun
superambition, noun
1. aspiration, yearning, longing. 2. goal, aim. 3. drive, force. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for ambition
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In yourself, in Polypes, there is an ambition to cease to be one.

    The Sea Jules Michelet
  • No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions.

  • Vanity was really his other name, and ambition with him knew no bounds.

    The "Genius" Theodore Dreiser
  • She had won her ambition of years, revenge on the man who had sent her to prison.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • He hoped to arm against the ambition of Rome all the barbarous nations his neighbours, whose liberty she threatened.

British Dictionary definitions for ambition


strong desire for success, achievement, or distinction
something so desired; goal; aim
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from Latin ambitiō a going round (of candidates), a striving to please, from ambīre to go round; see ambit
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ambition

mid-14c., from Middle French ambition or directly from Latin ambitionem (nominative ambitio) "a going around," especially to solicit votes, hence "a striving for favor, courting, flattery; a desire for honor, thirst for popularity," noun of action from past participle stem of ambire "to go around" (see ambient).

Rarely used in the literal sense in English, where it carries the secondary Latin sense of "eager or inordinate desire of honor or preferment." In early use always pejorative, of inordinate or overreaching desire; ambition was grouped with pride and vainglory.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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